You Do NOT Need a 504 Plan Before You Can Have an IEP

I want to make something very clear because there’s a lot of confusion out there in public schools, and some public school personnel are telling parents the wrong thing. You do not need a 504 Plan before you can have an IEP. I’ve heard from parents who have said that public school officials have told them that they first need a 504 Plan, that the 504 Plan has to be put in place first before a child can have an IEP.

That is not true, okay. That is a lie. A child can qualify for an IEP and never have a 504 Plan. If someone is telling you this, either they’re ignorant or they are trying to stall. They want to give you a 504 Plan, or give your child a 504 Plan, instead of an IEP.

A 504 Plan is very simple compared to an IEP. It’s simple to put into place. It does not obligate the school district to do as many things as an IEP does. There’s a whole list of reasons why school districts tend to, not all the time but often enough, tend to persuade parents to get a 504 Plan rather than an IEP. If you want your child to be evaluated for an IEP, the school district can absolutely do it even if your child does not have a 504 Plan.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

A Helpful Way To Take Meeting Notes

Here’s a helpful way to take meeting notes in your IEP meeting.

Usually what happens is someone’s assigned to take notes. They take notes for the whole meeting and then at the very end of the meeting is when the person reads the notes. Nothing wrong with that. But typically what happens if the meeting is longer, it takes a long time to read those notes back.

Number one, everybody’s tired, they want to be done, and so sometimes the notes don’t get the attention that they deserve. Secondly, people forget things. I repeatedly was falling into a challenge when it came to reading meeting notes, because I take incredibly great notes. So when we would read the notes back at the end of the meeting, I would want certain things to be inserted in the meeting notes that people had said. When I asked for them to be added to the meeting notes, invariably they would say, “Well, no, she didn’t say that.” And I said, “Oh yes, she did. I wrote it down word for word.” “No, no, no, no, no. She said this.” And so we’d have this whole discussion about “He said, she said,” and all the other kind of things.

So what I started doing was having interim meeting note summaries, and when the meeting starts and the person’s taking notes, whenever we finish discussing a certain topic. So if we’re talking about, let’s say curriculum and learning and how well the child’s doing with math, reading and writing, and the teacher discusses that and we have a conversation, and then we’re done with reading, math and writing and we’re going to start talking about social skills, I will stop. I will say, “Could we please read the notes for the section we just discussed?” so that then we can complete those notes. We don’t have to read them at the end, and we can just finalize that portion of it.

Many times, people really like the idea because they like the idea that they’re not going to have to read them all at the end of the meeting, because sometimes you run out of time. The other benefit is that since we just discussed reading, math and writing, if I want any changes made, I want anything additional that we discussed added to the meeting notes, it’s still fresh in everybody’s mind and they’re much more agreeable to add it to the notes.

Alrighty, have a great day. Bye-bye.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

Pam Lindemann Shares Her #1 Secret to Success as an Educational Advocate

The other day, I had an IEP meeting, I think it was last Friday, and this was for a little boy who lived in another district in Florida. Last year in May, I think it was, we did an IEP meeting and we successfully advocated for a one-on-one para for him, and he’s got autism. So we successfully advocated for a one-to-one, a dedicated para, and I think he was in first grade. So we got that done. Then the parents decided to put him in a private school, because they thought that would be better for him, and it didn’t work out. They couldn’t handle his behaviors, and he’s really off task all the time. He really needs somebody to help them. So the parents were bringing him into another county, and the big concern was that one-to-one para, because districts typically, typically in Florida will, it’s not a surprise, it’s an expectation that they will fight that one-on-one.

So when we got a draft of the IEP, on the draft of the IEP, sure enough, it’s on the previous IEP, it said “One-to-one individual para throughout the school day to help with academics, independent functioning.” Okay? On the new IEP, it said something like “Staff need to support child in independent functioning, academics.” So it was a big change. It was not a one-to-one, it just said “Staff needs to help.” So mom’s all distraught and I’m like, “All right, I know what I need to do.” You know, I’m prepping for my meeting, I’m getting my attitude straight, I’m getting my reasoning set up. I mean, I do a lot of preparation for these meetings and so I’m all ready to go in and all ready to argue this.

And so before the meeting, I was talking to the mom and we hung up and she said to me “Can we pray before we go into this meeting?” And I said, absolutely. So I called her up and we prayed. We just asked for God’s guidance and His direction, and you know, if you’ve gone and seen on my website, The Advocate’s Prayer, that I wrote because before I go into every meeting, I pray. So if you haven’t read that, I’d encourage you to read it. So I always pray for the family and for the team and for my mouth, my mouth stays in control.

So I pray with that mom, and we go in the meeting and it’s a lovely team and everything’s going really well, and we’re waiting for the moment where we’re going to talk about this and that, and about the one-to-one. There was a district program specialist in the meeting, which they’re always in the meeting when I show up, which is fine. So that’s okay. I was ready. We get through the whole IEP, it was lovely, everybody’s nice, and we get to the services. We come to that particular entry and the staffing specialist reads, as it reads on the draft “Staff to support child throughout the day, independent functioning, behavior,” whatever.

And just as I’m getting ready, I mean, my mouth was open, just as I was getting ready to say something, the district program specialist says, “Wait a minute, he gets a one-to-one dedicated para. That’s what it says on the previous IEP. That’s what needs to be on this IEP. You need to change that.” And the staffing specialist said, “Well, we wrote it this way.” And the district person, program specialist says, “No, you need to write it the exact way that they wrote it on the previous IEP.”

And I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that a program administrator at that level wasn’t fighting the parent on this, wasn’t going to fight us, and she was insisting that it be changed. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before. I don’t remember that happening without me having to say something in response and having a discussion about it. It was a moment to behold. So we got through that. We finalized the whole IEP. We got everything done, and mom, after the meeting, mom and I called and she was beside herself with joy. Like the parents couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe it.

So here’s what I want to tell you. You know, people always ask me, “How do you do it, Pam? What do you do? What do you say? How do you say it? What’s the secret, Pam? How come you’re just so good at this?” And it reminded me after that meeting that years ago, probably like 13, 14 years ago, before I started the company, I went to an IEP meeting for a friend of mine. We went into the meeting, I advocated and we got him, the little guy, a one-to-one para. So we come out of the meeting and the parents are so overjoyed, just so overjoyed. All their friends told them they’d never get it.

And I was talking to the dad and he said, “I have never seen anyone advocate like you.” And I said, I think I said, “Well, thank you.” He meant it as a compliment. I said, “Thank you.” He says, “Do you know why you’re so successful?” And I said, “I prepare a lot.” I said, “You know, I try and do my best.” And he said, “Pam, you’re the only person I’ve ever known who actually asks God to go in the meeting with you.”

And I’ve always prayed before I go into a meeting, but I forgot that little story until a couple days ago. There is no secret to what I do and how I do it. I am prepared and I do my part, but I will tell you categorically that the reason, the only reason that things happen, the way they do in IEP meetings and my meetings is because God shows up, and I asked him to show up, and He walks into that meeting with me. Because I will tell you, there are things that have happened in some of my meetings that can only be called miracles. That’s the only way to explain it. So here’s the deal. I love teaching. I love sharing. I love sharing things and techniques and topics and answering questions and everything, but you really need to know, it’s not a big secret.

So I would encourage you to, before you go into a meeting, before you get on a phone call, before you talk to anybody, just say, “Hey, God, I really need your help. Can you just come with me?” And here’s the thing, He’s there with you anyway, He shows up anyway, He’s just waiting for you to recognize him. He’s just waiting for you to recognize him and to ask Him for help. He’s just waiting for you to recognize that you need His help and He’s the one to help you. He’s there anyway, might as well ask Him to work. We’ll put Him to work, that’s how I look at it.

So on that note, I just really want to thank you. This has been a real joy. I’ve loved it. It was a little new technique of offering this class and just having you pay what you wanted to pay if you could pay, and not worry about it if you didn’t. That was a directive by God. I understand now why He had me do it. So it’s been a real joy, it’s been a real pleasure. If I can help you anywhere, in any way, then please let me know because I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for the long haul. Before I forget, so one more thing, John asks, “You mentioned last week, putting the medical diagnosis on the IEP. Did you say in the parent notes or the actual health section?” You can put it both, but here’s the thing. Some schools don’t want to put it in the health section and have it printed, so they tell you they can’t do it. But if you want it written in the parents section, that’s your section, you can ask for it to be stated there. Okay?

All right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a real pleasure, have a fantastic evening. We look forward to having our paths cross in another way at some other time. God bless you. God bless your families.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

You Can Have an IEP Meeting As Often as You Want

So the topic of today is yes, you can have an IEP meeting as often as you want.

When your child qualifies for an IEP, the date that that IEP is put in place is called your annual review date. So every year, before that date, before that date comes up, the school has to have a meeting with you to update the IEP. They’re legally obligated to do that. So they will meet with you, they have to invite you to the meeting. The purpose is to review the IEP, the goals, all the information on the IEP, make sure it’s accurate, update the information so if your child hopefully has made progress, that can be updated, to look at the goals, to determine if the goals have been met. If they’ve been met, great. If they have not been met, why not. That needs to be discussed and considered. To write new goals. To address your concerns, so anything that you have concerns about. Maybe you want additional information added to the IEP. Maybe you want different goals added to the IEP. That’s the purpose of the annual review meeting.

Now, as I said, the school must have that meeting at least once a year to update the IEP. Now you, as a parent, can request an IEP meeting as often as you want. When my daughter was smaller and had an IEP, I had IEP meetings at the end of every nine week quarter. That was my way of keeping in touch with what was going on, and I could ask questions if I felt if she met the goals or was making progress. That was a way for me to know about it. If she met the goal, then we could talk as a team about a new goal to add. If I had questions, it was a great reason to have a meeting so that I could bring up my concerns and talk to the team about it. You can have one as often as you want.

You may not feel like you need a meeting and then something happens and you want to have a meeting, you want something changed or something added. You want a new goal. Maybe your child’s not making progress and you want more help, more service, you want somebody to work with her more often than they have been working with her. Maybe you’re concerned because he’s not getting the services he’s supposed to get on the IEP. Maybe they’ve been missing out on some therapy or some help with math. Whatever your concern is, you can have a meeting, all right.

To request a meeting all you do is you write an email to the principal. You can copy the staffing specialist if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with copying whomever you want. But we always send the meeting to the principal because that’s the person who’s in charge of the school. Then they can’t say somewhere down the line they didn’t know about it, they didn’t know about your request or any of that kind of stuff. This way they know about it, they can assign it to someone and have it done.

When you send your email out requesting an IEP meeting, I give people generally three days to respond back to me. If they don’t respond back to me, I’m making a phone call. Do not let this go on for 5, 6, 7 days or weeks. It’s professional courtesy, in my mind, that somebody should respond to me within three days at the most, and if they don’t, then I start calling them and I start emailing them to document that they’re not listening to my request.

So please follow up, don’t let it drag on, and have a great meeting. Take care.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

Ask For Copies of Evaluations and a Draft of the IEP in Advance of Your Meeting

Before you have an IEP meeting, make sure that you ask for copies of evaluations and a draft of the IEP in advance of your meeting.

If you have a meeting coming up and the school is doing evaluations, they might be doing a psychoeducational evaluation, speech and language, occupational therapy, whatever it is, you have the right to ask them for a copy of their evaluation report in advance of the meeting. Now they cannot give you a copy of the actual evaluation tool that they used for the assessment. That’s not appropriate protocol in the world of testing. The tests themselves cannot be given out because that’s highly protected information because if the test got out it would compromise all of the results, right? So you can’t have the actual test, but you can have a copy of the evaluation report that the psychologist or the therapist prepares that they are going to present at the meeting.

And you want copies of those in advance so that you can read them, you can highlight them, you can properly come up with a list of questions, and review everything in advance so you’re prepared for the meeting. So ask for those. I usually say if I could ask for them about three days in advance of the meeting so you have time to review them. So then when you get into the meeting, you have all of this material with you and it’s available to you.

Now if you’re doing a virtual meeting and you have not received the material in advance, then when you’re in the meeting ask them to provide you with a copy. They can email you a copy to you as well. You can also ask for a copy of a draft of the IEP in advance of your meeting. So usually the schools prepare a draft. That’s all it is, it’s a draft. It’s not the final document, most of the time it’s not even completed, there’s just pieces of it that are put together and some pieces have to be discussed in the team so that’s why it’s not complete.

So don’t panic if you don’t see certain things on there, it’s just a draft. A place to get started to save some time in the meeting and everything can be changed, it can be discussed, it can be updated, but it is a place to start. So you want to ask them for a copy of that draft in advance of the meeting. The only situation when they will not send you a draft, where they will refuse to send you a draft, is when you’re going into a meeting to determine if your child qualifies for an IEP.

So if your child does not have an IEP yet but you’ve asked for evaluations, there’s a meeting coming up to review those evaluations, chances are the school is not going to send you a draft of an IEP in advance because they have to wait for the meeting to determine in the meeting as part of a team discussion whether or not a child qualifies for an IEP. If the school sends you an IEP in advance of that meeting, then they could be guilty of prequalifying of predetermining whether a child qualified for an IEP without having the appropriate team members of which you have to be a part in the meeting.

So that’s the only time you probably will not and really should not get a draft of an IEP in advance of the meeting. But once your child has an IEP for all other upcoming meetings, you should be able to get a draft in advance again so you can take a look at it. When you get that draft of the IEP, you sit it right next to the old IEP. You put the old IEP on the left side of your desk, you put the new IEP on the right side of the desk, and you take a highlighter and a pen and you go through page by page and make sure that you compare those two IEPs to make sure all the information is appropriate and relevant. 

All righty. Good luck.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

When The School Calls You Often About Your Child’s Behavior

Sometimes kids have a hard time in school and they have different kinds of behavior problems in school and the school doesn’t know how to help them, so they call you. They call you as the parent. I’ve had some parents who call me in tears that they don’t even want to be by their phone because the school calls them so often to report problems, that their child is having this behavior problem, or the child did this wrong or that wrong. Sometimes the school will call parents and say, “You have any ideas on how we can work with your son or your daughter, because we don’t know what to do for him anymore?” Or they’ll call and they’ll ask the parent to come pick up the child from school because they can’t handle him anymore, or that he’s not in the classroom, he’s in the principal’s office, whatever.

Well, let’s get a couple of things straight, okay? First of all, it’s the school district’s responsibility to intervene, to evaluate and to support a child who has behavior challenges at school. That is what they’re there for. In addition to academics, reading, writing, and math, we all know schools are responsible for that, they are also responsible for behavior, for social emotional support, to help a child overcome the behavior and be successful at school in spite of the behavior, that is their responsibility. If they don’t know how to do it, then they have to find help in order to help the child overcome the challenge.

There are several ways that this can be done. First of all, if your child does not have an IEP and the school is calling because of behavior problems at school, your child needs an IEP, period. Okay? Period. Sit down, send an email to the principal, tell them that you want a meeting because you want your child evaluated for an IEP, okay? If your child has an IEP and there are these behavior challenges, then if your child does not have a behavior plan on that IEP, a positive behavior plan, then you need to sit down, write a letter to the principal, request an IEP meeting, so that you can have the school start evaluating your child for a Behavior Intervention Plan. This is a positive plan to teach the child appropriate behaviors.

If your child has an IEP and your child has a behavior plan, and you’re still getting calls, you need to sit down, write a letter to the principal and say, “The behavior plan isn’t working. We need to have a meeting and I am requesting that another behavior plan be created, that appropriate data be collected and that a new behavior plan be written because this one isn’t working.” All right, and you need to do it today. Do not wait. The behaviors aren’t going to change, they’re just going to get worse.

If the school is calling you to come pick up your child, I get it. If you’re concerned about the child’s safety and welfare and wellbeing, and you need to pick your child up, of course, you have to do that. But if you don’t, and if this has become something that the school’s doing, you don’t have to pick up your child. You can tell the school, “Look, you’re obligated to come up with a plan to help my child. You need to come up with a plan to do that. That’s not my job in the school district. I take care of the child at home. That’s your job, okay?”

If you do go pick up your child, make sure you sign them out, go to the desk and sign your child out, and on the sign out sheet put, “School called me to pick him up. School called me to pick her up.” You want documentation that you’re pulling your child out of school because the school told you to come and pick them up, all right? You have to make sure that the school is intervening, that they’re creating a plan. It is not acceptable to just keep calling you as a parent and saying, “Come get them, come get them, come get them.” They’re shirking their responsibility, all right? And so, make sure you write the letter to the school and have a meeting in order to deal with the behavior. If you need help with this, please call us. We work with this all the time, and you can’t have the school calling you and you can’t have your child continue to have these behaviors, because they’re not learning, right?

There is definitely a way to fix this and we can help you. Take care.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

Listen to This Before Your Next IEP Meeting

This is Pam Lindemann. I’m sending you this message because there’s a sense of urgency to it.

I just got off the phone talking to some parents that we’re helping and their story is heartbreaking, and I wanted to share it with you so that hopefully you can avoid the same pain that they’re going through right now with their son who’s in elementary school, in fifth grade and who will be going into middle school. So he has an IEP. He’s had an IEP for quite some time, and he’s not making any progress. Academically, he’s two or three years behind. He’s having a hard time keeping up. Socially, he’s struggling. He’s had some behavior issues because the lack of being academically on grade level is being a challenge for him.

So the school drafted an IEP. We had an IEP meeting two weeks ago and we didn’t finish so they wrote a draft of the IEP. This morning I compared both IEPs. I set the old IEP down to my left side and the new IEP on my right side, and I’m describing this to you because this is what you need to do. I go word for word, comparing the old IEP to the new IEP and I highlight things that are different. It’s critically important that you do this because as a parent, you don’t think to compare to the old IEP, and these parents didn’t. This mom and dad are really sharp. They’re extremely sharp and tuned into what their son needs, and they’ve been frustrated because he hasn’t been receiving help.

I compared both IEPs. The school’s proposed new IEP, all the goals are exactly the same as the old IEP. Exactly the same. There are no new goals. He never achieved the old goals on the IEP, so because he never achieved them, he never accomplished them, the school just copied them into the new IEP. They’re not providing any more services. In fact, they want to cut back on services. They want to remove him from speech and language, a couple of things like that, and they have the nerve, the audacity to copy the goals exactly the same and they’re expecting mom and dad to come into a meeting in the next couple of days and sign that IEP. It is unconscionable. It is absolutely… I can’t even say the word. You fill in the blank. It is absolutely reprehensible.

This IEP team is sitting there with the parents, telling the parents how wonderful their school is and they should be so fortunate that their son is at this school because they really care, and they have done nothing to help him. For a whole year, this child has not received services, has not made any kind of benefit. Look, an IEP is… The purpose of an IEP is that your child benefits, is that they make progress. If he’s not making progress, we don’t copy the same goals. We don’t do the same thing that caused a year of failure. We have to look at what’s new. What do we have to do to help him? Not this school. They honestly thought that the parents would come in, sit down, sign the exact copy of the old IEP and that the parents would be happy and satisfied and go. It is absolutely reprehensible.

So I want you to please look at your child’s IEP. Don’t just accept it, review it. Sit down with the old IEP, compare it to the new IEP. This is IEP season. A lot of families are having IEP meetings. Please, if you don’t understand it, if you’re not sure, if your child is struggling… If your child is struggling and you know, in your heart of hearts, something’s not right, please call us. There are so many pitfalls and so many mines, it’s like a minefield in an IEP of things that the district can do, can gloss over, can lie to you about, can weasel out of.

There are so many ways that they can deny your child services. They lie to you, they tell you things that aren’t true, and you are a loving, unsuspecting, trusting parent, trusting that the people sitting from you across the table really had your child’s best interests at heart. I’m going to tell you, most of the time, they don’t. Now, there are those who absolutely do. There’s wonderful teams out there, fantastic principles and teachers, and they’re wonderful, God love them. But I’m going to tell you, in this day and age, most of them don’t care or they don’t want to fight on your child’s behalf, and it is a horrible system.

Please, you don’t have to call me, call someone and get help, but I don’t want you to go through what these parents went through. These are two outstanding, well educated, tough parents, and by the time I hung up the phone, they’re in tears because they can’t believe what the school is doing for their child.

Okay, I wish you the best, I hope you are doing well, and I just pray that your child is getting the best help that they possibly can. Take care. God bless you. Bye-bye.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

A Child With An IEP Can Be Suspended, and Even Expelled, From School

Today, we’re going to talk about the fact that yes, a child with an IEP can be suspended and even expelled from school.

Some parents have a misunderstanding that a child who has an IEP cannot be disciplined, cannot receive a referral, cannot be suspended or cannot be expelled from public school, and that is not the case. All children, even children with an IEP, have to abide by school discipline rules and behavior guidelines. If a child violates the code of conduct for that district, violates those rules, has behavior that is considered unacceptable, then that child with an IEP can receive a referral or a suspension, just like any other child, just like a typical child in the school system. The difference is that there is an extra step for children who have an IEP that applies in these situations that does not apply to children who do not have an IEP. Here’s what I mean…

A typical general education student who does not have an IEP and who has bad behaviors, who does something wrong can receive referrals, can receive suspensions. When that child reaches 10 suspensions and 10 is the number, when that typical gen-ed child who does not have an IEP reaches 10 suspensions, then depending on the violation of the district’s code of conduct, that child can be reprimanded accordingly. Including the fact that they can be expelled from school if the behavior that occurred is that serious. If it’s a level four offense, they may be expelled from school.

However, a child who has an IEP who, let’s say, did the exact same thing that the gen-ed student did, the child with the IEP when they’ve reached 10 suspensions must have a manifestation meeting. This is critical and this is one of the benefits of children having an IEP, particularly if they have behavior challenges. When the child hits 10 days of suspensions, accumulates that many days, then the school must have a manifestation meeting.

This means that the school must meet with you as the parent, whomever you want to bring to that meeting. They will have other people from the district most likely attending the meeting. It’s a big deal. They will have a meeting so everyone can discuss, was the behavior that took place, a result, a manifestation of the child’s medical diagnosis? Was it a manifestation, a result of their disability? All right? That is what the team has to decide. That manifestation meeting is afforded to children who have an IEP. So it gives an extra step, an extra time, an extra moment for the team to get together and determine did it happen? Did the event happen? And number two, was it a result of the child’s disability? Critically important.

Manifestation meetings are so important. I cannot stress this to you enough. I’ve got more trainings on these meetings that I encourage you to listen to. If your child is prone to behavior challenges, this is not to be taken lightly. There are very, very serious events that happen in the school system and schools take them very seriously.

So please listen to the other trainings that follow. Thank you.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

A Dead Serious Conversation About Your Child’s Behavior Problems in School

All right. We’re going to have a dead serious conversation about your child’s behavior problems in school.

This is something that I take very, very seriously. I’ve been doing this 25 years, more than 25 years. I’ve seen a lot of things and I’ve seen school districts do things that, again, there are wonderful people in the school. There are some fantastic schools and programs and classrooms, all of that. That’s a given, but there are some problems. There are some really big challenges lately with kids who have behavior challenges in school. You need to know what you’re up against, because if you don’t take this seriously, if you don’t have a very full, comprehensive idea of what you’re up against, and your child has behavior challenges, then he or she are very much at risk for being kicked out of school or sent to an alternative school, and I’m not kidding.

Here’s what you need to understand, ever since Parkland and that horrible devastating event in South Florida several years ago, the school districts, and I really can only speak for Florida, but the school districts in Florida, rightfully so, took that situation very seriously. One of the big challenges with Parkland, one of the problems, there were many, was that the school district took a lot of heat because people knew that that shooter was troubled and had problems and there were signals and signs that people felt were ignored, that if they weren’t ignored by the school district, maybe the event wouldn’t have happened, okay?

So that was one of the things that came out of that. As a result, school districts in Florida really buckled down and put all kinds of things into place and security measures and everything like that. They have a zero tolerance for children who have behavior challenges. Your child, it doesn’t matter if your child have, some parents think, “Oh, my child’s so good. He’s never had a behavior problem. He’s been such a good kid. This is just an incident. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s not that bad.” Let me tell you something, in the public school districts, every behavior problem is a big deal. It is either a big deal in and of itself now, or it’s going to lead to something that could lead to a big deal and they are taken very seriously. There is zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior in the school district.

I had a mom call me one time. Well, I have a lot of moms call me when their child is being suspended. If your child’s being suspended and getting referrals, you better know how many suspensions your child has, because once they reach 10 suspensions, it’s extremely serious. You need to know. I talk to parents all the time who don’t know how many suspensions their children have. You better know 10 is the number. You don’t want them to get to 10. Once they get to 10, they can be kicked out of school or sent to an alternative school. You don’t want your child going to an alternative school. It is not a good place to be, okay?

I’m going to apologize in advance because I get very worked up on this topic because I know what’s at stake. I was talking to a mom one time. Her son was in ninth grade, nice kid. He had autism. Nice kid, never had any problems. He had an IEP, never had a behavior problem. Respectful, nice, got good grades, a little quirky, some social skills issues, but never, ever a problem. He happened to be in the classroom of a teacher who was a ROTC instructor. Because she was an ROTC instructor, she had a gun, a rifle I guess, of some sort in her classroom, standing in the corner. Wasn’t loaded or anything, but why it was there is not the issue, it was there. He, the student, picked up the gun. Went up, picked up the gun, held the gun and said, “I’m going to shoot all of you. I’m going to shoot all of you dead.” He thought he was being funny. He thought he was a funny joke. Ha ha. He never would’ve done it. He never intended or whatever. He just thought it was a funny thing.

He was on the verge of being kicked out of school. When the mom called me, she said, “Well, you know what? They have a meeting. The school told us about this meeting and we’re going to go in and have this meeting. They said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re going to talk about what happened and about his autism.’ It’s just, this has never happened before. He’s a good kid. I’m not worried about it. I talked to the principal, the principal said not to worry about it. This meeting is just a formality and it should all be fine. He has never had a problem before.” Well, I’m going to tell you what I tell that mother and what I tell every single parent who calls me when they’re in a similar situation or approaching a situation.

Here’s what you need to understand. That principle, if the decision is left up to the principal, because a lot of these decisions are out of the hands of the principal. The principals get directives from the district, okay? You have to understand, principals don’t run their schools all the time. It’s the districts behind, up above who pull the strings. So here’s the deal though. That principle has a couple of things to be concerned about. Number one, no matter what your child does, did, it is a violation of the code of conduct. So that principle has three groups of people, well actually four, to be concerned about.

One, he has to send a message to all the other students in the school, because they all know that this happened, this stuff spreads like wildfire. He has to send a message to all the other students in the school that this is not tolerated. This is absolutely not tolerated and it won’t be tolerated. So he can’t have the student come back to school, because what kind of message does that send to all the other students? It says, “Well, he did it. It was funny. Ha ha or whatever, but it’s not serious. We’re sending him back to school.” That cannot be.

The second group of people the principal is concerned with, has to be concerned with are all the parents. This is going to spread again, like wildfire among the parents. “Hey, did you hear what Jimmy did today? He picked up a gun. He said he was going to shoot everybody.” And it’s like the game of telephone. By the time it gets to the 100th person, it’s blown out of proportion. So those parents want to know, what is that principal going to do? What did he do with that student? They want to make sure their student is safe and they don’t want this student back on campus at all. So this principal has to be able to say to all those other parents, “Hey, I took this seriously. Whether he intended it or not, I take your child’s safety seriously, and he’s not allowed on campus. So you have nothing to worry about.” That’s the second group.

Third group of people are the teachers and all the other staff, because the teachers and all the other staff in the school are saying, “Do you care about our safety? Do you care about us? You’ve got a student here who threatened to kill everybody. He thinks it was a joke. He thinks it was funny, but you know what? Parkland wasn’t a joke. Parkland wasn’t funny and look what happened down there. How can you put our lives at risk when you don’t know for sure?” So that principal has to go back the next day and talk to the teachers and the staff and assure them that he takes their safety seriously. So he’s not going to let your child come back to school, even if it was a joke, even if there was no serious threat whatsoever.

The fourth group is the district, the people above the principal, and they’re looking at things and they’re looking at all of this. They don’t want a PR nightmare. They don’t want any kind of a risk. Even if it’s a minimal risk, they don’t want it. So I’ve dealt with a lot of situations where the principal had no say in the situation, it was a district decision. They told the principal what was going to be done.

These are the circumstances under which you’re going into this meeting, just to discuss what happened. Was it a result of his disability, of his medical diagnosis and not to worry, it’s just a meeting, okay? Let me tell you something. There is no such thing in my world, under these circumstances, when there is just a meeting. My staff knows that if any parent calls our office with his child under these circumstances, and there’s a meeting coming up, that I will drop everything to help a parent in this situation, to figure out what has to be done, because I know what will happen. Most of the time, most of the time, these children will be not allowed back in regular school. They will be found one way or another, there’s a process that has to be done, but they will either be expelled or sent to an alternative school, but they won’t be allowed to go back to their homeschool. I’m not kidding.

You have to take this extremely seriously. If your child is having behaviors in school, if they’re having problems and you know it, and you know it’s going to get worse. I have parents who have children who don’t have any kind of problems whatsoever. Then maybe they hit middle school or high school and, you know, it’s a chaotic world. Their kids are going through so much these days and they start having an incident here or an incident there. You know, as a parent, you know in your gut if you need to be concerned and if there’s a problem. So if your child has never had a behavior challenge before, but now you’re seeing signs, please take it seriously, call us. There are things that can be done and to be put into place, to help protect your child from going down this path.

There are things that the school districts are obligated to do, to work with children who have behavior challenges. They are obligated to put behavior plans in place, which when written properly, is a positive intervention to help children. They have to do, they collect data. They can get a behavior analyst involved. They can get a school psychologist involved. There’s a lot of things, if your child does not qualify for an IEP, they need to get an IEP. We just had a case where a mom and dad called me, I felt so bad for them. Lovely people, never had a problem. Their son doesn’t have an IEP, but he has ADHD, ADHD and anxiety, and things are starting to pop up. He’s in middle school, he’s having challenges and emotional challenges and a lot of anxiety. He was suspended for a couple of days and they called me, he does not have an IEP.

If they had not called me and we had not had a discussion, I guarantee you, he would’ve been kicked out within a month or two, because the behaviors were escalating and the school was getting more involved and more serious about what was happening. So he did not have an IEP. We worked so fast and so hard to get that child in the IEP process, because once a child is in the IEP process, once they’re being evaluated, then they have all the protections as if they had an actual IEP. So I knew that once we got this particular student in the IEP process, evaluated for an IEP, that he had all the protection, almost as if he had an IEP. That was critically important. Sure enough, we worked with the parents the day after we had this meeting to assign consent for him to have evaluations and start the process, following day he got suspended for a couple more days. Please take this seriously. Don’t mess around. Please call us.

We make this the highest priority because it is, and it literally changes the trajectory of your child’s life. Okay. Thanks a bunch. Bye-bye.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

Moving To Florida And Your Child Has An IEP? Here’s What You Need To Know

Hi, this is Pam Lindemann. I’m an IEP Advocate in the State of Florida. I’ve been advocating for over 25 years. If you’re coming to Florida, there’s a couple of things that you need to know if you’re bringing with you a child who has an IEP and you’re going to be enrolling him or her in the public school system. So let me talk to those parents who have not left their home state yet, but you’re planning on coming to Florida. You’re in the process, you know you’re coming, it’s just a matter of when, and you have a child or two or more who have an IEP. What do you need to do to prepare for that? The most important thing that you can do before you leave for Florida is to have your IEP reviewed and make sure that it’s really a nice, tidy, neat little package before you leave your state.

One of the ways that I can help you, and I’ve done this with hundreds of families, is we can talk about your child’s IEP. I’ll do a consultation with you. We’ll review it together. I’ll ask you some questions. I’ll go through every part of the IEP and make sure that I understand it because IEPs from other states look different than those in Florida. What I’ll be looking for are things that perhaps the state of Florida would interpret differently than what your current state provides on an IEP. Florida is notorious for gutting IEPs from out of state. What they do is they say, “Well, we don’t provide that service that way. We do it this way.” And parents don’t know the difference. You just so desperately want to trust the new school. You are believing that they’re telling you the truth, and then you come to find out months later when your child’s not making progress, that what they explained to you, wasn’t quite exactly what you understood it to be and it wasn’t the same as it was in your home state.

When we do a consultation, what I’ll be looking for is making sure that all the services your child receives are properly explained in detail on your child’s current IEP. I’ll be making sure that all the services and help that they receive is documented on the IEP. I’ll be making sure that if there’s a service that we’re not familiar with down here in Florida, that it’s understood, that it’s explained on the IEP so that when you come to Florida, there is no question about what kind of help your child was receiving. If things aren’t written very clearly in your home state’s IEP and you come down to Florida, it can cause a lot of problems because Florida will interpret it in one way, and most of the time that may not be the best service to provide for your child.

I will tell you if things need to be rewritten, I will tell you if goals need to be added, I will tell you if wording needs to be changed so that it’s more in line with what Florida does. The purpose of all that will be for you to work with your school in your home state before you leave, and get an IEP that’s really written very well before you come down here. So you can work with your existing team, explain what you’re doing. You’re moving, you’re coming to Florida. You’ve been talking to an advocate. There’s some things that need to be clarified and strengthened on this IEP so that when you come down to Florida, the chances of them removing it from the IEP are slim to none. Then you will meet with your team up there, rewrite the IEP, have it be a stronger document. Then you can come down here to Florida, okay?

Now, for all of you families who have already moved down here to Florida, and if you’re coming to Florida, the most important thing I can tell you is do not go into your first IEP meeting by yourself. Please make sure you take an advocate. I of course would recommend myself, but honestly, I don’t care. If you find another advocate that is experienced and knowledgeable and you trust by all means, take them. Please take someone with you because… Please, this goes without saying, not all advocates are created equal. You want an advocate who knows how to go into a meeting and stand firm and negotiate with the school system so that your child’s IEP is not compromised. You want an advocate to go with you to make sure that what the school is telling you they’re going to provide, is the service that your child is currently receiving on their IEP.

What does that mean? Let me give you an example. So let’s say in your home state where you’re coming from, your child’s receiving 30 minutes of reading support every day. Let’s just say an hour, an hour of reading support every day with an EMC teacher, that special education teacher meets with your child an hour every day in order to help with reading skills. That’s what’s written on your IEP, and you come down to Florida. In the meeting, they say, “Okay, yes, we can. We’ll make sure that that happens. Absolutely. We have a special education teacher and she’ll go into your classroom.”

Because here in Florida, they may say to you, “We provide this service in the classroom because we want to make sure that your child doesn’t miss important instructional time. So we have our special education teachers go into the classroom and work with your child, because then he has the benefit of getting the instruction and the special help and we’re going to do that for an hour a day, just like he was getting in his previous school.” And you’re sitting there as a parent thinking, “Oh, thank goodness. That’s just wonderful. That’s fabulous. That’s even better. So he’s going to get the time, 60 minutes a day with a special education teacher who’s going to help him with the same reading skill. Fantastic.” And everybody’s happy, they write the IEP.

Several months later, your child’s not making any progress in reading and you don’t know why. You’re becoming frustrated because if anything, he might even be regressing if he’s not making progress. You call me and I look at the IEP and I’ll say, “Well, let me explain what kind of service he’s getting.” So in Florida we have… Other states have this too, we’re not the only state, but one of the popular service models, one of the popular ways of providing special education to children who have IEPs is through a model called support facilitation. If you don’t know what support facilitation is, you could easily be misguided into thinking that it’s equal to the service your child was receiving previously.

Support facilitation means that a special education teacher does go into the classroom, does go into the regular classroom and they can work with your child. Let’s say it’s 60 minutes. They can work with your child in the regular ed classroom. But just because it says 60 minutes on the IEP does not mean the special education teacher is working with your child for 60 minutes, five days a week. That’s not what support facilitation is. That’s what direct instruction is, which is what your school did previously. But support facilitation means that a special education teacher goes into the classroom and she’s in that classroom, and her job is to help all students in that classroom, not just your child.

So she’ll be in the classroom for 60 minutes, but that doesn’t mean she’s helping your child for 60 minutes. What she’s obligated to do is to help all the children in the classroom. Now, here’s the thing. Some schools, the special education teacher will go into the gen ed classroom and help only the children who have IEPs. So that could be your son or daughter, and maybe 15 other kids who have IEPs. She’s there for that hour to help all those kids, any one of those children who have problems. What she does is, she may go up to your son and she’ll say, “Hey, Matthew, do you understand what the teacher’s teaching you?” And because it’s an ELA class, an English Language Arts Class. This is reading support. “Are you following the teacher? Do you have any questions that I can help you with?”

Now, if your child isn’t in the mood to have somebody help him or doesn’t want to have attention drawn to him, or whatever reason and says, “No, I got it. I don’t need any help. I understand.” And the teacher says, “Are you sure? Let me go over something.” And he says, “No, I got it.” She’ll walk away. She’ll walk away and won’t help him. That counts as providing the service and parents don’t know this. We have to make sure when you’re in that first IEP meeting, it’s critically important that these types of things don’t happen, or if they do happen, you clearly understand exactly what type of help your child is getting. If you feel it’s a benefit to your child and you want to move forward, fantastic. But at least you’ve been properly informed on what’s going to happen with your child, okay?

So that’s why it’s so critically important to have an advocate go with you into that first meeting, because it’s going to set the tone for everything thereafter. Just another piece of information. When you’re in that first meeting, if you don’t like the new IEP that’s being proposed to you for the county in Florida, for the school district in Florida that you’re going to be attending… If you don’t like it, if you’re not a hundred percent sure that it’s providing the service that your child needs, do not sign it. Do not sign it.

Because if you don’t sign that Florida IEP, your previous IEP from the state that you came from stays in effect. That’s the IEP that the public school district has to follow until a new one is created, okay? There are so many… That’s a whole nother discussion I could go into. There are just so many pitfalls that you have to be aware of that it’s just our goal here at The IEP Advocate is to help you make sure that you don’t fall in into those traps and that your child continues to receive the best service possible.

The purpose of this is not to scare you. We’ll welcome you. We’re thrilled that you’re coming down here. There’s so many good things down here. We just want to help you be prepared and make your move as successful as possible. So you can give us a call. We can do a free intake call to talk about our services and how we can help you and whatever else we can do for you. Take care. If you’re on the move down here, have a safe trip and may God bless you and your family. Take care.

The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!

Listen to Pam Lindemann’s vlog at:

Moving To Florida: What You Need To Know